Words and deeds

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Tony Benn’s 1982 Labour 
Party programme was admirably straightforward and described a fundamental, irreversible shift in the redistribution of wealth and power.

This was to be done through a just tax system, tackling evasion and avoidance – yet his will left his vast cash and property fortune to his four children via such manoeuvres.

His children are reported to have “avoidd” a huge tax bill via a “deed of variation”, a procedure whereby a will is altered posthumously to use up a spouse’s zero-rated death duty allowance.

This is completely legal but it is the kind of avoidance which I understood Tony Benn wished to prevent, in order to stop the wealthy from giving their children unfair advantage.

Yet as the late Jimmy Reid observed, he had “more conversions on the road to Damascus than a Syrian long-distance truck driver” and this final gesture should be no surprise.

(Rev Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place

St Andrews

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